Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Six miles of ships

Crusing is still a deal. That was the message this morning at Seatrade, an annual industry get-together where the CEOs of major cruise lines deliver their "state of the union'' panel.

As proof, Stein Kruse, president of Holland America Line, said he recently looked at cruise brochures from the 1980s, the 1990s and today. Prices for a week-long cruise have remained about the same, he noted -- and that's without adjusting for inflation and other factors.

In real terms, that means the price of cruising has gotten cheaper. (These days, you can often get a Caribbean cruise for about $100 per person per day. European cruises cost a little more, but your costs are set in U.S. dollars -- a bonus at a time that exchange rates are plummeting daily.)

The relative value of a cruise that includes food, lodging and transportation from port to port is one reason that cruise executives remain bullish on their industry, despite the economic slump. About 12.8 million passengers are expected to sail in 2008 on the major lines that are members of the Cruise Lines International Association -- about 200,000 more than in 2007.

Member cruise lines will introduce 36 new ships by 2012, reported Dan Hanrahan, president of Celebrity/Azamara cruises and chief of CLIA's marketing committee. Put them all end-to-end, and they'd stretch six miles long, he said.

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